To see the beauty in the ordinary


Winter's filigreed canopy. Image by Marie

The real voyage of discovery consists not in  seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes ~ Marcel Proust

I am endlessly captivated by the changing seasons and walking in nature is my favourite way to meditate. I remember likening my own cancer treatment to the seasons. I was diagnosed in autumn, as the leaves began to fall from the trees; began chemotherapy in the darkest days of winter, when I also shed my hair;  my newly sprouted hair came with the first signs of spring; and I emerged in the sunshine of summer, all treatment over. I found it a powerful and comforting image to hold onto, reflecting that there are seasons when things die and are reborn; seasons of ripening and blossoming; seasons of dark and quiet.

There is something very striking in the stark beauty of winter and I find myself on my walks taking picture after picture of the bare trees silhouetted against the sky. Seeing the beauty in winter and the dark times of our lives can  sometimes take Proust’s “new eyes to see ” as the following reflection from Terry Hershey illustrates.

In my winter garden–now sodden and weary–a visitor said to me, “There’s not much to see here, is there?”  “True,” I told him, “But it all depends on what you are looking for.”  

For if you look up, you will see the filigreed canopy created by our 150-foot cedar tree. Or off to the side, notice the mottled rust bark of our native madrone tree, revealing, like shedding skin, a trunk with the polished gleam of a cinnamon swizzle stick. Or admire the dark, rich green of our native yew, covered with red-hot tinged berries resembling miniature pitted olives.  Which is all well and good, except that the disappointment is real, and you find yourself wishing you could make it up to anyone disappointed.  We soooo want the garden–like life–to indulge and thrill us nonstop, we miss the obvious fact that gardens need winter just to catch their breath.

And here’s the deal — when we always (and only) demand the theatrical, we miss beauty and magic in the subtle, the inconsequential and the ordinary.